Group defies ban to send anti-N. Korea leaflets in South Korea

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ANKARA

A North Korean defector group in South Korea claims to have sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border despite Seoul’s ban on such activities, local media reported on Friday.

Fighters for a Free North Korea said it flew 10 large balloons carrying around 500,000 leaflets, 500 booklets, and 5,000 $1 bills from unidentified border areas in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces from Sunday to Thursday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The group is one of two North Korean defector groups that had their permits revoked after the South Korean Unification Ministry filed a criminal complaint against them in July 2020.

This was the first time that any group has claimed to have sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets since South Korea imposed a ban in March, amid fears that such actions could provoke North Korea and endanger people living near the border.

Violators can face a maximum prison term of three years or a fine of 30 million won ($27,400), according to the report.

The law was enacted after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong last June in anger over Seoul’s failure to stop groups from sending what Pyongyang calls propaganda leaflets.

Activist groups criticized the legislation as a result of pressure from Pyongyang, but South Korean officials have said it was a necessary step to protect residents living in border areas.

Amid heightened tensions on the peninsula over the past year, North Korea tested ballistic missiles last month, a move that was criticized by Seoul, the US, and the UN Security Council.

At the time, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said such actions could have an “undesirable” effect on efforts for dialogue.

Earlier this week, Moon reiterated Seoul’s desire for talks with Pyongyang, saying it was time “to prepare to turn the peace clock again,” according to a Yonhap News Agency report.

“The time is approaching again when [we]should end long deliberation and restart dialogue,” he said during a weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“Peace, for now, is incomplete, we should move toward irreversible permanent peace on the basis of the Panmunjom Declaration,” he added, referring to the agreement signed during his summit with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in April 2018.

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